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Community Recap: ‘Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts’ (Season 3, Episode 11)

When NBC announced last November that it was putting Community on hiatus, there was a collective outcry from the legions of loyal fans who had come to rely on the show’s unique style of comedy to disrupt the monotony of today’s television sitcoms. After several months and multiple online campaigns (including #sixseasonsandamovie on Twitter and a “Save Community” Facebook page), television’s most consistently intelligent and unpredictable comedy is back with an episode that is exactly the Community fix we needed.

Continuing the show’s series-long trend of naming each episode to sound like a college course, tonight’s episode was entitled “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts.” As the episode opens, the gang is congregated in the cafeteria, lamenting the lack of a coffee shop since Hot n’ Brown is under construction. Shirley says that if she had been in charge, she would have made it most efficient for the customer, including selling sandwiches along with coffee.

Britta suggests she partner with Pierce (whose wealth seems endless) to create a business plan for her own sandwich shop and propose it to Dean Pelton. (The partnership is a callback to the episode “Environmental Science” from Season One in which Pierce helps Shirley conquer her fear of public speaking.) Just as Shirley and Pierce agree on their venture, Shirley’s ex-husband-now-boyfriend, Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), appears and launches into an elaborate song and dance routine which ends with Andre asking Shirley to marry him. Again. She happily accepts.

Later as the group is discussing Shirley’s engagement in the library, Britta and Jeff both declare their disapproval of weddings. Britta says they are archaic and just a way to keep women in bondage; Jeff simply doesn’t get the idea of being monogamous. Faking sincerity when Shirley enters the room, the whole group offers her congratulations on her engagement. Shirley tells them that since their church is very strict about second weddings (as well as tight jeans and Calico cats), they will be having the ceremony at Greendale. She only has two requests: 1) that Jeff make a toast at the reception, and 2) Troy and Abed must act normal.

Is this normal?

The idea of Troy and Abed acting normal is a brilliant nod to the myriad criticisms the show’s two most popular characters often receive. Played by Donald Glover and Danny Pudi, Troy and Abed are essentially a couple of ten year olds stuck in grown up bodies. They agree, though, that out of respect for their friendship with Shirley that they will act normal at her ceremony and avoid doing anything “weird.” This, of course, requires a 24-hour “power down” period in the Dreamatorium.

Jeff finds himself struggling to come up with a speech even though talking is what he does best. Annie suggests he look inside himself and just say how he truly feels. Annie isn’t having any luck herself as she keeps dropping hints to Shirley that she would love to help plan and Shirley keeps rebuffing her offers. When Britta accuses Shirley of abandoning her sandwich shop plans with Pierce because she is getting married, Britta becomes the default wedding planner so that Shirley can focus on her business plan. As it turns out, Britta is quite talented at wedding planning, something she blames on coming from a long line of wives and mothers. (Annie points out that she has that in common with most people.)

Free to focus on the business, Shirley and Pierce present their idea to Dean Pelton (complete with overhead projector and transparencies). Troy and Abed, after emerging from their marathon of imagination and immaturity, take on the appearance and behavior of normal adults. It is unsettling to say the least.

Jeff and Britta both show up at the wedding rehearsal sufficiently drunk for their own reasons. Troy and Abed do their best to behave normally, which is, in itself, quite weird. Shirley is late to her own rehearsal because of her meeting with Dean Pelton, leading to an argument with Andre which reveals his assumption that since they are getting married again, she would return to being a housewife. This is not at all what Shirley wants anymore and she tells Andre unequivocally how she feels. While ostensibly explaining to Jeff and Britta what marriage really means, Shirley and Andre realize they are beginning to see the other’s side and eventually come to an understanding.

Happy ending

“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” ranks somewhere around the middle of the list of Community’s best episodes. This doesn’t really matter since it’s just such a relief to have the show back for at least the rest of the season. (Any subsequent seasons are still questionable.) Where this episode excels, however, is in the many throwaway lines that makes the show endlessly quotable. When Pierce is discussing his plans with Shirley, he asks if his people should call her people. He quickly adds, “I don’t mean your people,” to clarify he wasn’t being racist. Well, not that time anyway.

We are also treated to a fantastic “Shut up, Leonard,” one of the show’s most popular recurring jokes. When Leonard interrupts Jeff’s drunken speech, Jeff responds, “Shut up, Leonard. Those girls you play ping pong with are doing it ironically.” Leonard seems unmoved by this revelation.

The show stumbles a bit near the end, with the climax feeling a little forced and cutesy. This is extremely unusual for Community, but considering the endless number of brilliant moments the show has given fans over the last three and a half seasons, it will be forgiven. We’re just so happy the Greendale gang is back.

Additional thoughts:

When Jeff was “looking inside himself,” a fair number of the images that appeared in the slot machine-style image were of Annie. Are we getting a glimpse as to where Jeff’s heart really is and if that romance will be rekindled?

Annie’s Boobs makes a brief appearance near the end of the episode, beckoning Troy to follow him into the air ducts. With any luck, at some point this season Chang will grease up and take another trip into the walls of Greendale.

We find out in this episode that Pierce was never an entrepreneur, he was just a guy with a rich daddy. Now that his father is dead and he has been fired from Hawthorne Wipes, what new adventures lie ahead for Pierce since the sandwich shop won’t be happening?

Earlier this season on 30 Rock, Jenna and her boyfriend Paul decide that “normalling” (pretending to be a normal couple and not the sex-crazed exhibitionists they are) is the newest form of sexual depravity. Was Troy and Abed’s attempt at being normal in this episode a coincidence or are the NBC writers working too closely?

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